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When to Use 1/2 Inch Drywall and When to Upgrade to 5/8: Factors to Consider

Many DIY enthusiasts may not know that drywall comes in various thicknesses, each suited for specific purposes as a wall or ceiling surface. In this post, we’ll be looking at two particular sizes — ½-inch and ⅝-inch — to discover where and how to use ½ vs ⅝ drywall.

Read on to learn more about ½ vs ⅝ drywall so you’ll know which thickness best suits your next DIY drywall installation project.

Stacks of drywall in different thicknesses. ½ vs ⅝ drywall

Comparing ½ vs ⅝ Drywall

First, Drywall is a high-quality calcium sulfate dihydrate — OK, gypsum — mixed with binders and other agents and sandwiched between two durable paper sheets. It is prized as a building material for many reasons, including its insulating and sound-deadening properties.

In that light, it’s easy to understand that ⅝-inch drywall will have better insulating and sound-deadening properties than ½-inch drywall. But, as you might expect, ⅝-inch drywall is more expensive than ½-inch drywall, although routinely by only a couple of dollars per sheet.

You should also understand that ⅝-inch drywall is heavier than ½-inch drywall and thus is somewhat more difficult to handle in a DIY project.

Also, ⅝-inch drywall will have less flexibility than ½-inch drywall, which can be problematic if your DIY project includes curved wall sections.

Price of ½ vs ⅝ Drywall

Drywall installed in a room with ceiling angles.

Before taking a detailed look at the prices of ½ vs ⅝ drywall, it’s important to understand that there are different types of drywall. That variety, available in both drywall sizes, gives you a choice for addressing whatever might be most important to you in connection with your particular drywall installation.

So-called “standard” drywall is suitable for whatever project you might be considering, but it lacks any specialized characteristics that might bring a desired custom feature to your installation. Other types of drywall are designed specifically to be mold-resistant, moisture-resistant, fire-resistant, or soundproof.

You may choose mold-resistant or moisture-resistant drywall for bathroom or kitchen projects, while fire-resistant drywall is your preferred choice for your garage, utility room, or spaces near stoves or fireplaces.

Also, soundproof drywall, which includes a special noise-deadening layer, might be a good choice for a noisy household.

Drywall Pricing Factors

A quick recent check of ½-inch drywall prices found no-frills panels available at close to $15 for a 4×8 sheet, with specialized ½-inch drywall priced at a little more than $21 for a 4×8 sheet.

As far as ⅝-inch drywall is concerned, the recent price check found both regular and specialized drywall priced at around $14 for a 4×8-foot panel.

Most of the world’s drywall is produced in China, and while the lengthy COVID-19 pandemic and transportation costs forced prices up last year, there are signs that those pressures are easing. Additionally, there is less demand currently for drywall.

In short, now is as good a time as any to go ahead and buy the drywall you’ll need for your DIY project. But if you want to take a chance to see if prices moderate from this point, that could be a good bet.

Fire and Water Resistance of ½ vs ⅝ Drywall

Closeup of a stack of DF fire-resistant drywall wrapped in pinkish-red paper.
Sheets of DF fire-resistance drywall.

Of course, one of the things you’ll want to understand when comparing ½ vs ⅝ drywall is the protection each can offer for your home. It will probably come as no surprise to you that, generally speaking, basic ⅝-inch drywall is the better choice regarding fire resistance.

It is, however, interesting to learn exactly why that is the case. Read on for a look at why ⅝-inch drywall is better for fire resistance than ½-inch drywall.

Fire Resistance

The gypsum used in drywall contains about 20% water, so it is resistant to transferring fire and heat from one location to another. In the event of a fire, heat transferred into drywall is dispersed as steam, slowing or even preventing the transmission of heat and flame.

And, of course, since ⅝-inch drywall is thicker than ½-inch drywall, it is more efficient at preventing heat and fire transmission.

Water Resistance

Interestingly in terms of ½ vs ⅝ drywall, both are equally effective at water resistance. That’s because no matter the thickness, the paper coating of all drywall sizes is routinely covered with a waxy substance.

Designed to keep everything between the drywall paper intact, the waxy coating also resists water infiltration.

Installation Issues of ½ vs ⅝ Drywall

While ½-inch and ⅝-inch drywall are fairly interchangeable, some installation issues can arise. Later in this post, we’ll look at building codes and other considerations that must come into play when assessing the use of ½ vs ⅝ drywall.

Using a straight edge to measure and cut a large piece of drywall

But for now, we’ll look at some basic considerations when considering the installation of ½ vs ⅝ drywall.


A major consideration, of course, is the weight of a ½ vs ⅝ drywall panel. A standard 4×8-foot sheet of drywall weighs in at just over 50 pounds. A 4×8 sheet of ⅝-inch drywall weighs slightly more than 70 pounds.

That, of course, is a significant difference. If you’re looking at a major drywall project, that difference could be a huge factor in deciding whether you can do the work independently or would be better off leaving it to professional installers.

But before you decide on drywall thickness, look at some newer and lighter drywall formulations at your local home improvement or building supply store. Those new formulations might make you more comfortable about using thicker drywall.

Existing Trim

More obscurely, in terms of ½ vs ⅝ drywall installation issues, if you are installing drywall around a door frame, you should know that the frame is designed to be used with ½-inch drywall.

While ⅛-inch isn’t much of a difference in thickness, ⅝-inch drywall still can look odd when installed around a door frame surrounded by ½-inch drywall.

And beyond door frames, you may face a similar issue if you use a different drywall thickness than what was originally used around window frames.

Building Codes and Drywall Thickness

A room of unpainted drywall on the ceiling and walls.

Before you get too deep into planning a DIY drywall project, particularly in choosing the drywall, you will use it. You need to check your local building code. It’s likely, for example, that the building code will at least require the installation of ⅝-inch drywall between the garage and living area of your home.

It’s also likely that building codes will require drywall with a specific fire rating to be used at some locations in your house. And there may be a requirement to use ⅝-inch drywall on ceilings to ensure rigidity.

Drywall Thickness Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you’ve taken a broad look at the issues of ½ vs ⅝ drywall, you may have more specific questions regarding which to use for your DIY project. Read on for answers to a few likely questions regarding the uses of ½ vs ⅝ drywall.

Can ½-inch drywall be used to replace ⅝-inch drywall?

The short answer to this question is that ½-inch drywall can certainly replace ⅝-inch drywall. And it may be a great DIY decision to make the switch since ½-inch drywall is somewhat less expensive than ⅝-inch drywall.

Also, ½-inch drywall panels will generally be lighter than ⅝-inch drywall panels, making them easier for DIY installation.

However, if you do make the switch, you will lose some of the insulating properties of the thicker drywall and some of the sound-deadening available with the thicker drywall.

There is, however, one circumstance in which you should always use ⅝-inch drywall rather than ½-inch drywall. Drywall installed as ceiling panels needs to be ⅝-inch thick. The thicker drywall is less susceptible to bending than ½-inch drywall, which can sag when installed on ceilings.

Installing drywall on the ceiling.

Can ⅝-inch drywall be used to replace ½-inch drywall?

Just as you can replace ⅝-inch drywall with ½-inch drywall, there are times when it makes sense to replace ½-inch drywall with ⅝-inch drywall, even if it costs a little more.

If, for instance, you’re replacing drywall along a wall that isn’t well-insulated, ⅝-inch drywall may have enough insulating properties to make it less expensive to heat your home in winter or cool it in summer. Cost savings from better insulation likely will offset the added expense of ⅝-inch drywall.

Can ½-inch or ⅝-inch drywall be installed over existing drywall?

An electrical box and wall switch in a drywall opening.

Let’s say you’re planning to deal with a succession of dings, dents, and small holes accumulated on one of your walls over the years. While you could remove all of the old drywall and install a new one in its place, it’s also perfectly reasonable to install a new one over the old one.

But if you opt for that approach, use only ½-inch drywall to cover the old drywall for several reasons.

First, ½-inch drywall is lighter and thus more readily and easily supported by the old drywall. And second, installing ½-inch drywall will mean you won’t have to extend your light switches and electrical plugs quite as far from their existing locations, potentially stretching live wires to dangerous lengths.

Wrapping Up ½ vs ⅝ Drywall Choices

Closeup of a stack of sheets of drywall.

So now that you know about ½ vs ⅝ drywall and when to use each thickness, you’re undoubtedly interested in learning more about drywall. For everything from how to install drywall to how to remove drywall to using drywall anchors, check out the many other drywall posts at DIY Painting Tips.